Has there been a movie made of it?
Yes, one in 1955 and one in 1999. The ’55 version starred Deborah Kerr (An Affair To Remember) and Van Johnson; the ’99 starred Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. There was also an opera based on it in 2004.
Who are the main characters?
Maurice Bendrix – an author and a man in love/hate
Sarah Miles – the wife of a civil servant, she has an affair with Bendrix
Henry Miles – a naive civil servant, he is a friend of Bendrix and Sarah’s husband
Mr. Perkis and son – the men assigned to Sarah by the detective
Smythe – a man on a mission to disprove God
What’s it about?
Bendrix is an author in London who had an affair with a woman named Sarah Miles. He is trying to put down into language what happened to change their relationship from acquaintaince to love to hate. And in having these transformations revealed to us, we are also privy to their transformation from apathetic people to atheists to believers – but very different sorts of believers in God.
Why is this book a classic?
The psychological aspect of it. The theological aspect of it. The arguments and logic for and against love, hate, God, and belief.
Why should I read this book?
Because of what it can teach you about love, true love, hate, and pain.
Has it won any awards?
“It was the hour when you make confidences to a stranger.” – p 18
“I thought I am kissing pain and pain belongs to You [God] as happiness never does. I love You in Your pain. I could almost taste metal and salt in the skin, and I thought, How good You are. You might have killed us with happiness, but You let us be with You in pain.” – p 98
“I thought, to hell with the whole lot of them and I walked out of the room where I was seeing him, and I slammed the door to show what I thought of priests. They are between us and God, I thought; God has more mercy, and then I came out of the church and saw the rucifix they have there, and I thought, of course, he’s got mercy, only it’s such an odd sort of mercy it sometimes looks like punishment.” – p 120
After this book was published, Greene expressed dissatisfaction with how it turned out and made many plans to rewrite it and eliminate certain scenes while adding others. He, in fact, did not intend Bendrix to end up where he did or thinking the way he did.
After struggling to get into this book, I rather enjoyed it. It wasn’t tedious in it’s psychology. There was just enough story to go on with the psychological “dialogue.” The end wasn’t trite or predictable. I cared about the characters despite their obvious flaws.